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Staying Focused And Looking For Progress

Staying Focused And Looking For Progress

Foster parenting is an emotional adventure. There’s no way to avoid the fact that foster parenting will make you feel something. In fact, the emotional journey that we take as foster parents is perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of taking care of the children who end up in our homes. But the emotional  ups and downs need to be tempered with a healthy dose of logic that you can tune into, as needed, to stay focused and see progress in your foster child’s development.


Our emotions rarely give us “factual” information. It’s possible for me to feel sad when everything in my life is going just fine. Sometimes I feel angry and irritable even though everyone has been treating me like a royalty. Emotions betray reality. Unfortunately, when you do an activity like foster parenting that involves highly charged emotions, it can be hard to see things as they are without looking through an emotional lens. If I’m angry, the world has a hue of red. If I’m sad, everything looks a little blue. On days when things are looking a little green, it can hard for me to see anything but…green. But there are ways to stay logical and stay focused in order to see the progress that your child is making no matter what the hue of the world and your emotional state of mind.


Keeping a daily diary is a really wise and important thing for you to do along with other foster parenting activities like cooking and cleaning. A diary can serve many purposes in foster parenting, but the one I’d like to highlight here is how a diary can help you see the progress that your foster child is making even on days when it seems like everything is going wrong. Your daily foster parenting diary can help demonstrate to you the incremental change that is taking place in your foster children from one day to the next as time passes. It is an important tool that you can use to change your emotional status from upset to content.


There have been numerous compelling scientific studies done on how memory works (or fails to work) in humans. These studies are truly shocking. Basically, humans remember things the way they want to. Humans make up details about “what happened” in the past and insert them into their memories regularly, often to satisfy emotional needs.  One study used a software program to take existing photos of individuals and insert images of them on a hot air balloon ride. These individuals who were willing participants in the study (and had no information of the purpose of the study), had never been on a hot air balloon ride. They were shown photos of themselves in the hot air balloon and a high percentage of these people began to fabricate memories of themselves in a hot air balloon. Foster care can be like a hot air balloon ride that never happened. Essentially, if you don’t write down information about your foster children on a daily basis, your memory may not provide you with accurate information about whether or not they’ve made progress in your care. You probably won’t remember things how they really were if you don’t take the time to record data about your foster children. Other people may be more likely to remember your foster children as they were when they first arrived to your home and be able to see changes more readily than you.


Looking for progress is an activity that can keep you motivated as a foster parent. But how do you measure progress? Every child is different and it can be beneficial to spend a few days watching your child when he or she first settles into your home, recording any noteworthy behaviors or other observable data in your diary. After you’ve spent a few days observing, you’ll notice some behaviors or attitudes that need some adjustment. Then, it’s a matter or recording small changes when you notice them in your child. Perhaps your foster child will say something or do something or you’ll hear about something that he or she did at school that will demonstrate that progress and change is happening. As time passes, you may look back through your diary and see behaviors or attitudes that have quietly disappeared. All of these things can help you stay motivated as a foster parent and continue to focus on helping your foster child achieve the very best outcome possible.


A foster parent diary can provide you with landmarks in your journey so that you don’t get lost in a jungle of emotions and memories that are slightly askew. Humans young and old rarely make great changes over night. Instead, we tend to make change slowly over time, which causes change to be  tremendously hard to really see with our eyes or hear with our ears. Like watching grass grow, seldom is a child’s growth and progress dramatic and obvious. But there are changes taking place that you’ll be able to see if provide yourself with markers and don’t forget to stay focused on them. Don’t let the emotional hue of a particular day distract you from your focus on the landmarks. It’s easy to get lost within the colorful emotions that emerge when you’re foster parenting, but staying focused on your child’s progress will keep the true colors of the whole experience shining through.

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